How did you learn to breastfeed?

One of the lactation consultants on the Lactnet list has asked the question: “How did you learn to breastfeed if your child is over 28 years old now?”  Many women have written their heartwarming stories about how we managed to become nursing mothers in the days before cell phones, internet and vhs players.

My daughter, Gen, was born at home in 1976.  I had no instruction on breast feeding prior to getting started with her.  I’m not sure if that is because there was no info available or if I was just so obsessed with how I was going to get her out of my vagina that I couldn’t think past that point.  I was pretty confident that I could breastfeed because my (British) mother had nursed all 6 of her children until we were 3 months old.

After the home birth, the baby got right onto the nipple and nursed enthusiastically as I gazed into her eyes (this is a hint of things to come because, if I was gazing into her eyes, it means I was breastfeeding in a bottle feeding position.  When a baby is latched on to the breast, he/she should be having a meaningful gaze into the mother’s armpit).  Within the first day, my poor nipples looked like hamburger.  The baby wanted to be on the breast all day long and it was excrutiating for me.  By the third day of this, I was asking my husband to go to the store and buy formula and bottles.  Lucky for me, he was very determined that his daughter would have the very best and she would be breastfed.  He urged me to continue and I did. . . eventually my nipples toughened and we were a breastfeeding couple for the next four years.  Right from the start, I knew that lying down and nursing were imperative for mental health.  I would often drift off to sleep with her in my embrace.  If we were on the couch, I’d wake up with the arm that held her completely stiff while the rest of my body had been fast asleep.  La Leche League meetings were available in my community but I didn’t know what they were like and thought it was like a church ladies auxilliary or something.  I remember calling a LLL leader when Gen was about 6 months old to get advice “My baby is 6 months old and she has never slept through the night?”  The leader said “Who ever told you she would?”  My reply “Everyone.”  Her reassurance that breastfed babies don’t sleep through the night and that is normal helped me to accept my daughter’s nocturnal nursing.


When Gen was 4 1/2 years old, I gave birth to Joanna.  Even though I had breastfed for 4 years and had been studying midwifery through that time, I still didn’t have a clue about good positioning at the breast.  I did know that breast feeding is the lazy woman’s way to raise a child, though.  When Joanna was about 18 months old, I attended a LaLeche League meeting where they did a presentation on positioning and I took my very large toddler home from that meeting to give it a try.  I put a couple of pillows on my lap, turned my (big) baby so that she was tummy to tummy with me, and latched her on.  Quelle difference! I could not believe how much better that felt.  I realized that there are some very good tips on breastfeeding that can make a real impact on comfort. 

Modern women are so fortunate to have all the resources available to make breastfeeding successful but, even when you have very little in the way of information, a determined mother and baby can do it.

5 thoughts on “How did you learn to breastfeed?

  1. This is such a great topic! Most women will have seen only bottle-feeding, or at least, not much breastfeeding. Why? I’m guessing it’s too “personal” for other women to see? Excuse me?

    An excellent resource for women who are intending to breastfeed is the book Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy: A Photographic Guide for Mom and Those Who Help Her by Laura Keegan, FNP. She has helped many, many women successfully breastfeed, and has turned her years of success into a book that features pictures of women breastfeeding, and accompanying text that helps clarify and teach women how to successfully breastfeed — without pain, cracking, bleeding, etc. It’s available at, and I highly recommend it.

  2. My partner’s grandmother told me how she was taught to breastfeed. She was told to get the baby on the breast, when she said it hurt the nurse replied “What did you think it would feel like?” There was no info on proper latching or positioning, just get your baby on whether it hurts or not.
    This was in the 1950s and 60s.

  3. There need to be more determined mothers and babies I think. I know I am a wimp about lots of things. Hack, I was going to birth my first baby (and I did) at home because I was scared of the ‘pain’.
    When my first one was born I realized that my total focus was on the birth too that I did not think much about how to breastfeed or mother my child.
    We did not hit it off well from the start. Even though my dd nursed pretty much every two hours night and day, gained well, cleared meconium with flying colours, our comfort was not there. She would gurgle and ‘choke’ on the letdowns. She was never happy with nursings. By the time we hit the three month mark she would cry and protest every time I would approach the usual nursing spots in our house even when it was just for hanging out together or play time; I was ready to reach for formula. I could not believe that I, a doula, aspiring midwife, and a believer in breastfeeding was at that point. I went through LLL meetings, going to a LLL leader’s and a lactation counsultant’s house for a consultation, breastfeeding clinic in Vancouver, and numerous tips and advice via emails, to no avail. At the end a breastfeeding counsellor was able to help me. The difference? She was the only one who came to my house to see us in our element. But that was just the beginning. The beginning of our long, beautiful, loving, stress-free, nurturing experience. My dd weaned herself when she was three years old to give me a three-month break before my son was born.
    If I was not so committed to breastfeeding, really to the way I wanted to raise my children and the mother I knew I was, and determined to get the help I knew was there our life would have been quite different I’m sure.

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